THORNHILL’S move toward incorporation may be put on hold with an offer from the provincial government for a grant to study the best governing option for the community.
And the best option might include joining the City of Terrace.
The debate surrounding Thornhill’s future has now widened thanks to a letter from provincial community, sport and cultural development minister Coralee Oakes replying to an Oct. 2014 letter from the Kitimat-Stikine regional district asking that the wheels be put in motion to incorporate the rural community.
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“Certainly, at 4,000 residents, Thornhill is of sufficient size and character that municipalization could be appropriate,” said Oakes in her reply letter, dated Jan. 29, 2015.
She added that it seems like “the community is ready for change because it has outgrown the rural model” but did point out the rural community faced challenges, one of which is a limited tax base.
“Given these challenges, and the community’s proximity to the City of Terrace, I am not yet convinced that it makes sense to create another municipal government in the area, and that strong consideration must also be given to inclusion of Thornhill in a reconfigured municipality for the broader Terrace area,” Oakes’ letter continued.
Her letter did acknowledge that the provincial government was involved in discussions with “communities to ensure that the northwest can take advantage of all the opportunities that an LNG industry has to offer.”
To help with that, she offered up a conditional planning grant of up to $60,000 to help the regional district with a “study services, governance and planning in the Greater Terrace area.”
When the study concludes, she wants regional district and city representatives to review the study and see if the two can agree on “a joint restructure study process.”
“At that time, I will consider whether, from a provincial perspective, the creation of a separate municipality for Thornhill would be a tenable outcome and could be considered as an option in a restructure process.”
The regional district can work with the government to satisfy the eligibility requirements for the grant, she concluded.
Regional district Thornhill director Ted Ramsey, who’s spearheading the idea of incorporation, said he didn’t think the letter was professional and showed a lack of understanding for how regional districts work.
“I wasn’t all that impressed with that letter,” he said.
“There was no acknowledgment that we’re asking for incorporation. I think the attitude of the government extended to Thornhill for years is that we’re not there and don’t count.”
Oakes’ letter said she wanted to “support Thornhill and Terrace in understanding who is currently deciding on what in the Greater Terrace area and how services are financed, while adding to the body of knowledge that supports good decisions in the face of your growth pressure.”
“It better be the regional district or I’ve spent seven years for nothing,” said Ramsey, referring to his time as Thornhill director on the regional district board.
“I’m disappointed, I’m really disappointed.”
Oakes’ offer of grant money for a study about what system of governance would be best for Thornhill and Terrace isn’t enough to even get started, he said.
“We have serious questions and we need serious answers,” he said.
The Oakes letter – and grant offer – is on the agenda for tonight’s regional district meeting.